Tuesday, 24 August 2010
Waking up to beauty
Zee-Zee, who was cooking alongside me, had collected from the roadside a windfall peach, and a couple of greengage plums. As I entered the kitchen she held her plate aloft, offering me a taste.
In my state of busy thought, the last thing I considered was accepting the fruit for its own sake. I took a piece, merely to move things along. Why should we be enjoying fruit when there's work to be done?
I bit into the plum, and it had the sweetest taste. I was transported from my thoughts into a world of taste and smell. In that moment I saw the whole kitchen in a different light. Zee-Zee was not holding up the cooking process, but became a great teacher for me.
Reflecting on this I was reminded of the moment of Mahākāśyapa's enlightenment. Mahākāśyapa was one of the Buddha's most senior disciples, and lead the Sangha after the Buddha's death. It is said that at one time, instead of giving a talk, the Buddha simply held up a white lotus flower to his disciples. Mahākāśyapa saw this and smiled. He was the only one of those present to understand.
What is it that the white lotus flower or the beautiful greengage plum teaches us?
In Japanese poetry the image of plum blossom is used to represent both the beauty and the transience of life.In the harsh Japanese winds plum blossom lasts just for a day or two. Life is beautiful, and beauty fades away.
We insulate ourselves from the truth of impermanence. For me worrying about some things, like making the dinner on time, is a way of avoiding the aspects of reality that I can't control. Inside this insulation I not only miss the impermanence, I miss the beauty too.
As the taste exploded inside my mouth, I entered reality a little more, and discovered the beauty there. Pay attention to what is real, and beauty will appear.
There are two truths here: The plum is beautiful in itself, in its wonderful colour and exquisite taste, and paying real attention in the world can reveal this kind of beauty to us. But the colour and the taste will fade. What remains is the beauty of the spirit in which Zee-Zee offered the fruit. Her joy and love remain in the world long after the fruit has been eaten.
Pay attention to what is really real and this is the beauty that will appear. What gifts have you been offered today?